South African opposition leader Helen Zille has been suspended from the Democratic Alliance (DA) party after she tweeted that colonialism was not all bad.
The former DA leader and the current premier of Western Cape Province caused a social media storm in March this year after she posted a series of tweets suggesting that the legacy of colonialism was not all negative.
In one of the tweets, Zille intimated that the transition into specialized healthcare and medication in South Africa may not have been possible without colonialism, remarks that didn’t do well with a lot of native South Africans, including members of her own party.
In a statement released on Saturday, the opposition alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the party has decided to suspend Ms. Zille pending the outcome of the ongoing disciplinary hearing on the case, according to the BBC.
“I asked her to tender an unreserved apology to both South Africa and the DA for the damage she has done. Unfortunately, she declined,” Maimane said.
But in a quick rejoinder, Ms. Zille denied Maimane’s claims that she did not offer an apology, adding that her suspension did not comply with the requirements of section 3.6.3 of the DA’s federal constitution, which stipulates that she must be given time to present her side of the story.
I apologise unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defense of colonialism. It was not.
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) March 16, 2017
In a later turnaround, the DA sent another statement clarifying that its Federal Executive had written to Madam Zille to inform her of its intention to temporarily suspend her from party activities until the current disciplinary proceedings are concluded.
Opening Old Wounds
Maimane insists that Zille’s remarks undermined the DA’s efforts to reconcile the Rainbow Nation, which has been struggling to shake off the ghosts of its troubled past.
Majority of parties that form the opposition alliance, including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have been calling for Zille’s removal from the party, terming her remarks as “cold-hearted racism”.
No Helen Zille, colonialism did not bring ‘development’ to Africa. It brought oppression, exploitation, racism, poverty, etc, etc, etc. pic.twitter.com/mz9oqp19df
— Ulrich J van Vuuren (@UlrichJvV) March 16, 2017
Although Ms. Zille, a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist, continues to serve as the premier of Western Cape Province, she could face expulsion at the end of the disciplinary hearing.
More than two decades after the end of apartheid in South Africa, tensions between native South Africans and minority whites still remains rife, with sporadic verbal and physical attacks that are largely believed to be racially motivated.